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College basketball odds and betting picks for Tuesday (12/21)

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The 2021-22 college basketball season is in full swing, and the nonconference schedule is loaded with matchups between the top teams in the country. Below is my analysis and favorite bet for Tuesday’s slate.

 

 

Xavier vs. Villanova

(Line: Villanova -5, DraftKings Sportsbook)

As COVID-19 ravages through the Big East leading up to Christmas break, the top two teams in the conference somehow remain unscathed, and that means we get an outstanding matchup between Xavier and Villanova. Both teams are trending in very different directions — Xavier is coming off a few big wins including Oklahoma State, Marquette and Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout while Villanova are losers of two straight. The first thing to notice about Nova’s losing streak is how poorly they’ve shot the ball (20% from three). The majority of that comes from stellar defense (hello Baylor) but we have to think Villanova’s elite backcourt sees some positive shooting regression coming home to the Pavilion. Yet, where Nova does have an Achilles heel is inside, especially defensively, and that is where this Xavier team is vastly improved. The additions of Jack Nunge and Jerome Hunter shored up the Musketeer’s soft defense from a season ago, which has improved from ranked 94th to 31st per KenPom. The Wildcats’ defense on the other hand is extremely versatile, able to switch one through five. But that won’t matter against Xavier as Nova has no one who can guard Freemantle or Nunge in the paint. Xaiver’s biggest weakness is their ability to take care of the basketball and they really struggle with any pressure in the backcourt that can take them out of their offense (which was seen against Iowa State and stretches against Marquette). But Villanova does not force turnovers at a high clip. I am a little worried Nova’s cold shooting may come to an end and Gillespie and Moore are due to catch fire at home, but schematically I like how Xavier’s deep backcourt can matchup with the Cats and they have a huge advantage inside and should easily win the rebounding battle. I’ve been high on Xavier all year, and this is a big spot for them to cement themselves at the top of the Big East. Villanova is vulnerable and a game during Christmas break where COVID-19 cases are exponentially rising, we may see a lackluster crowd. I am taking the dog.

The Pick: Xavier +5

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